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  • PV Blows Out the Walls

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2008
Greenpeace and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association have worked together for seven years examining the potential of photovoltaics (PV) to solve the world’s energy crisis. Their latest report, “Solar Generation V – 2008,” states that, “If last year a huge window of opportunity was opened, this year the entire front wall of the house has been torn down.”


Workers install PV panels at Munich Airport in Germany. Photo courtesy of Phoenix Solar.

The 76-page report offers “FAQs on PV,” a primer on solar, and it takes a look at the market, the future, the costs and competitiveness, the benefits and the policies that drive the industry. Since the first report, released in 2001, photovoltaic capacity has grown 7 GW, tens of thousands of jobs have been created, hundreds of companies have been founded, and millions of tons of CO2 have been saved. The industry has consistently outpaced predictions – showing that, not only have the windows been opened, but that the doors and walls have been getting blown off for several years now.


Solar panels are springing up all over. Photo courtesy of BP Solar.

Looking ahead to 2030, the groups examined two assumptions in predicting how much electricity could be generated by photovoltaics. Using the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2007, PV will provide 8.9 percent of global electrical demand. Using the Greenpeace/European Renewable Energy Council “Energy [R]evolution” report, it will provide 13.8 percent of the world’s electricity. The second report assumes wide adoption of energy efficiency measures – the reason for the more optimistic prediction. The projection assumes that PV systems will be producing 1864 GW, or 2546 terawatt hours, in electricity.

The report also predicts that the PV market value in 2030 will be approximately $666 billion per year and the cost, $10 to $19 per kilowatt hour. To achieve this, energy policies are needed, with the report citing feed-in tariffs in Europe as the most effective to date; subsidies for nonrenewables such as nuclear and fossil fuels must be removed; and a number of legally enforced mechanisms must be put into place to ensure the market’s security and growth.

The report also includes details on shifts in the market; for example, in the last report, Sharp Corp. of Japan was the leading PV cell producer, whereas today, Q-Cells AG of Thalheim, Germany, has taken the top spot, with Suntech Power of Wuxi, China, not far behind. Other shifts are noted as well, including changes in materials and manufacturing, costs of PV, policies by country and more.

The report is available on the Greenpeace Web site.

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